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New Pretoria clinic is a case study in why many township projects fail

Involvement of business forums a huge issue.
The site for a clinic in New Eersterust, Hammanskraal, Pretoria, is now used as a dump, after the project came to a halt in 2019. Image: GroundUp

It is almost two years since Rapid Builders & Contractors vacated a construction site meant for building a R68-million clinic in New Eersterust, Hammanskraal, Pretoria. Residents have now turned the site into a dumping area. There is confusion about why the project stopped.

The Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) awarded Rapid Builders the tender on November 30, 2016. What was supposed to have been an 11-month project came to a halt in September 2019 as disputes among members of the project committee and business forums saw the contractor vacate the area. This is according to GDID spokesperson, Bongiwe Gambu.

She said, “The contractor voluntarily left the site citing the involvement of business forums on the project as an issue.”

When GroundUp visited the site recently, residents had started using it as a dump. The fence that had barricaded the area was no longer there, but there remained a construction site sign indicating Rapid Builders as contractors.

Gambu said 15% of the funds from the budgeted amount have been used.

Early last year, Rapid Builders project manager, Shane Govindasamy told GroundUp that constant interruptions from the community could not allow them to successfully complete the work.

“The situation was out of control. The community didn’t allow us to work. When we brought our own machinery on site, they wanted to bring their own. They wouldn’t allow us to work for three days straight. They would protest because they wanted a slice of the cake,” he said at the time.

It is common for so-called “business forums” to try to get in on the action when new large developments are started. This makes it hard for legitimate companies, especially ones that do not wish to pay what they may see as bribes, to finish developments.

Previously, we failed to locate the business forums in question but recently tracked down the project’s Community Liaison Officer, Isaac Komane, as well as Meyer Mtshweni, the New Eersterust business forum chairperson.

According to Komane, before work began he received submissions from residents, wishing to offer various services to the project. Those who dealt with construction machinery were welcome to outsource if they didn’t have their own.

But then it appears things became chaotic.

“Different groups started coming up,” he said. “I had lists of local businesses from the community that had submitted but people bringing machinery weren’t on my list. The groups were against each other. One group would bring a machine. Another group would object and come with theirs, which caused conflict,” said Komane.

He said the contractors would often find themselves without equipment to perform their duties, which would halt the process for days and sometimes weeks.

“A site manager in 2019 said he couldn’t work that way. Because of constant disagreements, they sometimes worked … one day a week.”

Asked about the business forums in the community, Komane said “business forum” was just a name. “I’ve never received any formal documentation from the so called business forums.”

Mtshweni claimed his forum has always existed. “There were differences, yes, but we did not chase the contractor away. We grouped ourselves when the project started and formed partnerships so that people could benefit. Our involvement was that we wanted to make sure that the 30% minimum that belongs to the community is implemented,” said Mtshweni.

Residents in limbo about the clinic

Resident and street vendor, Dinah Mafodi said that most of the residents had no idea what was happening with the project and why it stopped.

“We saw construction vehicles stationed at the site and we were excited that finally another clinic was going to be built. This area grew larger and a new clinic would surely assist those that do not live near the current clinic,” said Mafodi.

Naledi Dube, a resident, said, “We have never had any formal communication regarding the clinic. These are just rumours we heard. We also heard that the clinic was going to operate 24 hours. That was going to be a relief because if a family member gets sick, then we wouldn’t have to go far.”

New Eersterust dates back to the 1960s. The new clinic was a welcome relief for residents who currently share one small clinic. Some residents have resorted to using Boikhutsong clinic in Tswaing, about 6km away, and Jubilee hospital in Hammanskraal, about 7km away.

Will there be a clinic?

In an emailed response to GroundUp a year ago, Gambu said, “GDID is engaging with Rapid Builders through legal directorate regarding their contract obligations. Once this process is done, GDID will advise accordingly.”

In a recent response, she said the department was finalising the final account with Rapid Builders and that a new provider will only be able to start work once they have signed a service level contract.

So not much progress appears to have been made.

Read/watch: Who is the real construction mafia? Part III

© 2021 GroundUp.  This article was first published here.

COMMENTS   15

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Ironically there were many clinics built during apartheid without interference

Na Nee.

Sad state of affairs. This consultations to the n-th degree does not work.

What happened to the R10.2million that’s already been “spent”. I guess it “rapidly” disappeared with Rapid Builders and Contractors. Same old same old.

Just stop trying to build anything in SA.
It does not work because destruction is the only thing in town !!!

That is the culture: talk, talk, talk, meetings, imbizos, lekgotlas, bosberaads call it what you like. And then more talking and consulting with the community. Back and forth and back and forth. Consult and consult- those who are living and those who are dead. That is why nothing ever gets finished.

And then you forgot to mention after talking so much K%^^K they brought the wrong equipment and then fought amongst themselves and finally left empty handed for being stupid parasites after all…..

What a train wreck …… protests, bribes, business forums, no formal documentation, unknown parties pitching up to work at site, …. blah, blah, blah. With all of this and interviewing most involved ….. IT WASNT ME IT WAS THE OTHER GUY OR I DONT KNOW.

I recall a very similar article Moneyweb published a few months back, also related to construction and local “business forums” torpedoing projects which didn’t involve them receiving a kickback in some way.

Why are the government departments not involving the police? If these “local businesses” have a legitimate claim they can take it up with the courts or bugger off. The previous article actually mentioned that the companies receiving the contracts were locals – the thugs masquerading as the local business forum were just upset they hadn’t gotten the contract themselves.

As sad as it is to say, I am actually amazed that only 15% of the funding has been “spent” so far. Expected far more to have been siphoned off while this project sits in limbo.

Police is a sunglasses style joke !!!

The large contractors with building sites and staff on the ground DO call the police but a spokesperson for the building industry said on radio, it doesn’t always help because depending on where the building site is (some are huge bridges in the budu, some are Sanral road construction projects on major national roads, etc) the police is not always able to get there on time. This is the ages-old Construction Mafia in action – problems started about 4 years ago mostly in Kwazulu Natal with changes to regulations to the Public Procurement Policy Framework Act (part of the B-BBEE laws) that triggered this type of lawlessness.

Suddenly, at all government projects (not only in construction) had to provide for 30% of the project to be given to local people in the community where the project is.

Does the subsequent stampede of people with no work, income, expertise or skills under the guise of a so-called “business forum” at building sites everywhere surprise you? Large contractors like Murray & Roberts had their site managers threatened at gun point, also further acts of violence involving acid, assaults, etc, so severe that major infrastructure projects stopped, or suffered excessive delays.

It’s not known if these “business forums” are acting on their own or if there’s some form of central planning behind them, according to the construction sector spokesman.

Mafia!!!

Back to the bush!!! Quicker than they might think!!!

TSK!! These people??? And then they want to cry and “struggle” ?? HE??

Your own doing if you have to live in the gutter man. Who did you vote for??

TSK!!

Too many cooks spoil the broth?

They would have just burnt it anyway

End of comments.

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